Italy crisis: President Giorgio Napolitano re-elected

Image caption,
Giorgio Napolitano has now secured an unprecedented second term

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has been re-elected following a cross-party appeal to run for office again to resolve a growing political crisis.

Mr Napolitano, aged 87, easily secured a majority in parliament.

Politicians had turned to the widely-respected president after five rounds of voting failed to produce a successor.

A caretaker government has been governing Italy following February's inconclusive general elections.

The political deadlock has compounded concern about the stability of Italy whose economy, the third-biggest in the eurozone, is mired in recession.

'Coup d'etat'

On Saturday, Mr Napolitano became the first president in Italian history to secure a second seven-year term.

He won 738 votes from the 1,007 electors.

Mr Napolitano put forward his candidacy after the appeal by main party leaders - both on the left and right.

"I consider it necessary to offer my availability," said Mr Napolitano, who had been due to step down on 15 May.

"I cannot shun my responsibility towards the nation," he added.

Image caption,
Protesters outside the parliament denounced Mr Napolitano's re-election

And in a brief address shortly after the vote, Mr Napolitano acknowledged that the situation in the country remained "difficult".

"I strongly hope that in the next few weeks, starting in the next few days, all sides will fulfil their duties, with the aim of strengthening the institutions of the state," he added.

Italian party leaders earlier urged parliament to "show unity" in re-electing widely-respected Mr Napolitano.

Outside the parliament building in Rome, protesters held a rally against the push for Mr Napolitano's re-election.

Many demonstrators were supporters of Beppe Grillo, the leader of the 5-Star Movement.

Mr Grillo denounced Mr Napolitano's re-appointment as a "coup d'etat".

Parliament began trying to elect a new president on Thursday, but MPs voted five times without producing a clear winner. In increasing desperation they turned to the man who was supposed to retire, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome reports.

On Friday, the leader of Italy's centre-left alliance, Pier Luigi Bersani, promised to step down as soon as a new president was elected.

Mr Bersani announced the news to his Democratic Party (PD) after many centre-left MPs refused to back his preferred candidate for president.

The centre-left failed to gain an overall majority at February's general election despite coming first.